Conrad senior year

Columnist Cameryn Schafer describes the emotions experienced as her not-so-little brother graduates high school and moves on to the next chapter of his life.

Editor's Note: This column is a part of a series called “I’m hyperfocusing on...”.

There was a time when I thought this would be easy.

I was always a traveler. I had an endless list of extra-curricular activities, friends out of town and trips to go on. I was away from home every single weekend of my high school career, and most nights, I was home for little more than the time that I spent asleep. During my senior year, I only cried over a few “lasts.” Graduation was fairly easy, and I only cried a little.

This year, my baby brother was the senior in high school. He was definitely more popular than I was in school, had even more activities than I did and, even though he wasn’t traveling, he was still with friends most nights. I never anticipated that his last week would hit as hard as it has. My brother is flying to California today to become a Marine.

I was away at college for these last couple of years, so I knew that this was happening because I heard about it from my family. When I was home, I could see the difference in my brother, but that was only for a small amount of time in all of this. My family took a vacation in April as a sort of last hurrah to spend with my brother. I still hadn’t connected that this was the end of our time together, and I thoroughly enjoyed the week without realizing the next time I saw him would be to say goodbye. I thought because I wasn’t home much, this wouldn’t have a huge impact on me.

Conrad childhood

Schafer's little brother has changed a lot over the years, but his departure for the United States Marine Corps doesn't change that she remembers him as the wild child that loved Star Wars, LEGOs and riding his bike.

Then Finals Week was over, and I came home. Suddenly, I was thrown into planning a graduation/sending-off party that we didn’t know was happening. I was back and forth between home and the city to buy supplies while also trying to unpack my own belongings and prepare for a jam-packed summer.

Thursday was when I finally realized he was leaving. It was the State Qualifying Track Meet for District 10, and my brother was running in only relays because he wasn’t going to be home for the State Meet. As he crossed the finish line in the 4x100, leading the race by nearly four seconds and setting the school record, my brother didn’t collapse while gasping for air like his competitors. Instead, he turned around and walked down the field with tears pouring down his face. That was the last event he’ll ever have for a sport, and he made sure to leave everything on the track for his team. As his team ran a victory lap, they wrapped the State Qualifiers banner around his shoulders. That was when the emotions hit me like a train. I cried harder than I had for any of my own “lasts.”

Friday was full of last-minute preparations for the graduation party, and Saturday during the party, I watched as others cried over his upcoming departure. I was in work mode for most of the day, and I didn’t cry anywhere near what I’d anticipated.

Then on Sunday, I wrote a letter in his signature book, and all of the emotions that I hadn’t felt since Thursday night were back. I couldn’t even see the page, so writing my letter took over half an hour. My day consisted of attending his graduation ceremony and taking him to a hotel so he could finish up any of the last minute requirements before heading to boot camp, along with crying at least every hour.

My little brother, the kid who hid inside his dresser to read comic books when he was younger and beat me at every single game of MarioKart, is leaving for the military right now. I still remember him as the 7 year old trying to hurdle our swings and smashing his face in the mud as a result, or the 12 year old stopping in a massive game of blob tag to taunt the blob trying to catch him, or the seventh grader that had me spend all night putting his massive hair into cornrows for his track meets. There was a time that he'd cry every time he saw a lady bug, and he begged mom to clip playing cards to his tonka truck bike with the training wheels so it sounded like a motorcycle, and his favorite place in the world was the lake during fishing season. There was a time when I thought this would be easy, but all those times are past, and my baby brother is on his way to becoming a Marine.

cameryn schafer profile

Cameryn Schafer is a senior majoring in dietetics and animal ecology pre-vet with a minor in classical studies.

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